What’s one of the best things you can do for yourself – and your whole team – right before a Big Important Meeting? Hint: it involves one of our favorite topics (food).
Drum roll, please…
Remove the box of doughnuts from the breakroom. And replace with a basket of fruit, some yogurt and granola, or any other brain-power foods you can get your hands on.
Two big (scientifically proven) reasons here:
1. The easiest food to access in the workplace is the food we eat most often during office hours.
2. Certain foods, like fruit and yogurt, help us think faster, improve focus, and feel more energized. A.k.a. the great trifecta for a brilliant meeting.
As for the bad foods? Well, they have the opposite effect. Think: tired, sluggish, unmotivated teammates ready for a nap.
How bad are the bad foods really?
So, what if, oops! You accidentally grab a pastry in the morning. And then – oops, again! You accidentally eat it before the workday begins.
How bad is that really?
Turns out - it’s pretty bad.
Because eating the wrong foods typically does one, some, or all of the following:
- Floods our brains with sleep-inducing hormones
- Physically reduces our cognitive functions
- Causes our blood sugar to spike and crash
- Negatively impacts our self-control and decision-making skills
In other words, the wrong kind of foods are proven to make us tired, impulsive, and mentally slower. A.k.a. the sad trifecta for a not-so-great meeting.
The worst of the brain-draining foods
So which foods should we avoid in the name of a productive workday?
Likely, nothing we talk about here will be particularly shocking. But perhaps just how much these foods impact our bodies and brains will be.
High saturated fats: Consuming high saturated fats (hello doughnuts and pastries) will literally cause disruptions at a molecular level that makes our brains function slower.
Too many carbs: In the land of carbs, moderation is key. Because overloading on things like bread and pasta causes our bodies to produce way too much insulin, which “floods the brain with sleep hormones like serotonin and tryptophan”.
Refined sugars: You know that ones...candy bars, cookies, soda, and so on. These types of processed sugary foods trigger what we all know as a “sugar high”. Which is quickly followed by? You got it. A major crash. In glucose levels, energy, mood, and productivity.
The best brain-power foods
When it comes to eating for energy, the idea is to keep your glucose levels even all day long. In other words: avoid those sugar highs and crashes.
So which foods help us to do that?
Here are the best of 'em:
- Fruits & veggies, especially: bananas, avocados, apples, berries, spinach
- High protein foods, like: nuts, yogurt, cheese, chicken
- Whole grains, like: whole wheat bread, oatmeal, quinoa
But here’s the thing…
Many of us already have a pretty good idea of what we should be eating and what we shouldn’t.
And yet, we still find it difficult to eat well, particularly during office hours.
Why is that? And how do we change it?
Let's start with the why:
According to this Harvard Business Review: “[Company] Wellness initiatives often fail because they rely on outdated methods of engagement, placing too much emphasis on providing information….information rarely succeeds in changing behavior.”
Turns out, it’s not that we’re all so ill-informed about nutrition. We’re mostly just busy.
We don’t have time to make food decisions throughout the workday. Which means we tend to eat the food that’s easiest to grab around us.
So how can we encourage better eating in the workplace?
Make the healthier, brain-power foods easier to access.
Here are a few ideas on how employers can help do that:
Place the healthier options front & center in the cafeteria.
The “food proximity effect” tells us that people are more likely to eat the food that is in their direct line of sight. So placing the healthier brain foods front and center in the cafeteria, and on menus, encourages everyone in the office to eat healthier.
Make fresh water readily available.
Dehydration has all sorts of sneaky sides effects - including sluggishness, crankiness, and overeating. So having several water coolers prominently displayed in central locations throughout the office will help everyone drink more water. And hey, even better, give everyone a re-usable water bottle to encourage even more water drinking.
Provide easy access to healthy snacks & meals throughout the day
This is not just about ditching the doughnut offerings in the morning and replacing them with healthier breakfast options. It’s about making it easier for employees to access healthy food options throughout the entire workday.
Which leads us to...
Fresh Fridges for the office
If you're looking for an easy way to start offering healthier brain-power foods at your own office all day long - check out 6AM Health Fresh Fridges. These are your new and improved vending machines, specifically designed for the workplace, that dispense healthy salads, bowls, juices, and breakfast options, any time of day.
Happy eating (and working) everyone!